It's Painful to Watch

This holy week I've been reading each of the gospel accounts of Jesus' final days before death and resurrection. The Passover meal and bread-dipped betrayal, the disciples alternately asleep or swinging swords in all the wrong places, the backhanded slaps to Jesus' face from so many. Filipino flagellation (Demotix 2012)On the PBS Newshour last night they showed scenes from Good Friday celebrations all around the world. In the Philippines, young men traversed the streets, flagellating their backs with bamboo whips, coating their chest and back in vividly red blood.

Yesterday at the Good Friday service at my church, we recounted the wounds of Jesus: the crown of thorns, the whipping, the heavy cross, the nails.

This is the stuff of Good Friday: the real and painful and violent accounts of what Jesus endured. It's painful to watch.

But I've been reflecting on this, and, I hope I am not too shocking here, but:

I don't feel sorry for Jesus.

To be sure, I would meditate on his wounds. But as my mind's eye walks through the story, from the washed feet to the courtyard fires and clamoring crowds…

I feel sorry for us.

These aren't the ones bleeding on the outside. Their clothing is not torn. They don't appear to be crushed or bruised. These are the very people who are overstuffed with hubris: The high priest as he arranges lying witnesses. The Roman guards who spit on Jesus' face. Herod who hopes for something entertaining, and is bored.

Bored in the presence of the King. Spitting in the face of God. Lying within earshot of the Truth.

My sympathies are with these sinners, these transgressors unware, who in their unfettered pride and rage, literally "do not know what they do."

This is not to excuse them, but to condemn them, and identity with them in that condemnation. They are dying under the lacerations of their own tragic sin. And I benefit from the distance of narration where I know that they are scoffing at the God who, by his resolute Choice, has become the very picture of Power Restrained. Of Forgiveness Defined.

His blood is real and difficult. But their—our—deceit and apathy and self-righteousness?

It's painful to watch.